TAMPA, Fla. — The state is providing more clarity on visits to long-term care facility residents.
Last week, the state issued an order easing restrictions on visitations implemented during COVID-19, paving the way for loved ones to see each other.
“I want to have her as long as I can and I know that she has dementia but you don’t know what’s going on in the back of her mind,” said Gloria Rodzielowicz. “I worry every day if she’s feeling abandoned because there’s nobody from outside to see her.”
Rodzielowicz said her mom has dementia and is in a long-term care facility. While they tried visits through a door and phone, she said they didn’t work.
Thanks to the order, she said she’s supposed to be able to visit her mom next week.
“Where we can’t touch, 6 ft. apart,” she said. “My being severely legally blind, I’m not even going to be able to see her face. She has two hearing aids she may not even be able to understand what I’m trying to say at that distance.”
“Last week was horrible. Nobody let us in. There was a lot of confusion over the order,” said Mary Daniel.
Daniel leads the group Caregivers for Compromise and is a member of Florida’s Task Force on the Safe and Limited Re-Opening of Long-Term Care Facilities.
She said she was thrilled to see clarification from the Agency for Healthcare Administration Wednesday.
“It specifically states the areas there has been a lot of confusion about and I am already seeing posts on our Facebook page that facilities are calling their families and they’re telling them that we’re gonna let you in so now for the first time I feel relief. Today has been the most emotional day of all of them because I’m seeing people get in,” Daniel said.
It says it’s critical facilities communicate status regarding visits by essential caregivers, compassionate care visitors and general visitation.
“The agency is handling complaints regarding compliance with the order, but in many cases, issues involve a lack of communication with family members. Please take these steps now to ensure the well-being of your residents and compliance with the order and other regulatory standards,” the document states.
According to the document, long-term care facilities need to “immediately implement” procedures to enable essential caregivers and compassionate care visitors visits to residents. It says essential caregivers don’t have to have provided services before the pandemic and can provide activities of daily living or emotional support.
Facilities have to let a resident designate up to two people.
Essential caregivers and compassionate caregivers can visit facilities regardless of the facility having a COVID case in the last two weeks. They aren’t required to maintain social distancing but have to wear personal protective equipment. The document also says a facility can require testing, but the facility must pay for it.
“So many people are happy tonight and I’m absolutely thrilled for them. Finally, finally, we get to hug our loved ones,” said Daniel.
Gloria said she’s hoping to be designated an essential caregiver or compassionate care visitor so when she visits her mom next week, on her 93rd birthday, she’ll be able to hug her.
“That’s all I really want. To be able to sit with her, hold her hand, give her a hug and wish her a happy birthday,” she said.